The Writing Show Must Go On…

Sorry for missing my usual Wednesday morning post, but I was out sick from work this week and couldn’t stand staring at the computer typing my life away.

So now that the madness of NaNoWriMo has been over for a week (ten days for me), what do I focus on, writing-wise? How do I move forward from a great accomplishment instead of getting stuck right here and not seeing it through? I’ll tell you how–I keep on writing.

I’ve flirted a little bit with the marriage kit book (which is almost finished), reading through a large portion of it and researching some of the holes I still need to fill. I found all the material I had written for Some College, my memoir about the year I spent in between my junior and senior year of college, and I contacted a good high school friend for his help with an area of the book that involves some things from our high school days. Going back to my high school reunion really opened that door wide for me. I’ve even started writing out some “treatments” for “scenes” in the other story I outlined before NaNoWriMo, and began trying to develop an outline for my next book in the series that this year’s NaNoWriMo book starts.

What I’ve managed to do is to stay far away from my NaNoWriMo manuscript, Delivering Justice. I’ve given myself ten days away from it, and I am chomping at the bit to start revising it. I said I wouldn’t look at it again until the 10th, but I think it’s time to get back into it. I know a few of the issues that I’ll need to address from the beginning–passive voice, weak verbs, an adverb explosion–and I’m sure I’ll discover a plethora of other problems that I’ll need to tackle, but I’m ready to dive back into it.

I spent some time on the boards for Harlequin and discovered that Delivering Justice should  be targeted toward the Intrigue line and not the Romantic Suspense line, at least from what I’ve read and been told. I’m glad, not only because the word count is lower, meaning I don’t have to find a subplot or fluff my story out of recognition, but because it means I don’t have to tone down the suspense and play up the romance as much as I initially thought. My story doesn’t have to be contorted into something unrecognizable to fit the mold, and that makes me feel even more certain that this story is exactly what it should be.

I never heard anything back from my So You Think You Can Write entry, but I’ve reworked the beginning and I think I’ve written some really good material since the opening chapter. I’m not sure exactly where the story will fit, but I would love to finish it sometime next year.

I’ve thought of at least three other books in the series DJ starts, with two possibles. Once I have eyeballs back on the story, I’ll get an excerpt up for some critique.

How’s everyone else’s writing coming along? Anyone close to submitting/publishing? Anyone revising?

XOXO,

Erica

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It.Is.Finished!

Yes, this.

Yes, this.

I’ve finally completed NaNoWriMo! For the first time in many failed attempts (some NaNo rebel style, some textbook), I completed 50k words, writing each day, on the same story. Mallory and Jake managed to take me on a great ride, one that I’m still taking. But I wanted to take a moment and breathe through this accomplishment, this milestone.

I never thought I could get 50K words on the page in 26 days, and it’s been surreal for me. There were a lot of things that contributed to my success, most of which I’ve mentioned here already, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate.

1. I outlined. This is not only my first year outlining for NaNoWriMo, but my first real attempt at outlining ever. I’m addicted to get the premise and major plot points on paper now. It guides the writing and keeps me focused so that every morning, I have some inkling of what needs to happen in a scene today.

2. I had a reader. My reader/accountability buddy kept me on track in a big way. Knowing that I had to turn over those pages kept me writing, and trying to write well. I felt so accomplished when she laughed at the right lines and threatened to murder me if I didn’t hurry up and write the next scene when I left her hanging on the cliff. I could actually gauge if my hooks worked with a reader, which helped me decide how to proceed.

3. I followed a routine. I got up each morning and put my butt in my writing area (there isn’t actually a chair down here). It didn’t matter what time I went to sleep, how unsure I was of where I was going next–I sat my butt down and wrote. Sometimes, after I got the rusty water words down and ideas were flowing better, I backspaced over the drivel and saved my reader from having to slog through it. I didn’t let a crap storm of awfulness stop me from continuing, but having that reader made sure I got rid of the really crappy stuff.

4. I allowed myself to edit. I’m not the type of writer who can write all the way through without looking back, put the manuscript away, then gasp in horror at what I’ve written a few weeks later. I read my output each day just like my reader. If it’s just a matter of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors, I fix them immediately. If a key transition is missing, I will either add it or note it for my revisions, depending on the size of it. I took advantage of Saturdays when I had more time to go back and add things in. I did what I knew I needed to do, just enough to keep the inner editor off my back. There are still too many weak verbs and tense things to fix, but making the surface changes helped me not to get bogged down in deep editing. My only rule? Don’t take away from the word count if possible.

5. I chose to write a story that I loved. I loved the idea for Delivering Justice from the moment I began working it over in my head. I loved the characters and the setup. I was excited at the opportunity to write something that was funny and suspenseful and a little cheesy. I wanted to write about cars exploding and criminals and undercover agents. I was looking forward to the challenge of remembering who was injured where. I was also open to the surprises–Luka and his showdown with Jake on the train to Orlando instead of tracking them down in Florida being my favorite–and throwing in more suspense of more kissing when I got stuck (which ALWAYS worked in this story–when in doubt, kiss it out…or blow it up 😀 ).

Bonus: I had fun. I’m usually so concerned about getting a draft right that I never get it finished. My characters are always so serious and brooding, so insecure and a hot mess train wreck. But Mallory and Jake, and their friends, aren’t. Mallory is a little neurotic and afflicted with verbal diarrhea, but she’s also an established businesswoman who will do anything to protect those she loves (including crawling into an air duct with nine millimeter handgun!), and Jake, while serious and by the book, is a former fat kid with a sweet tooth whose loyalty is unshakeable. I let the characters who wanted to be funny be funny. If a character had a thought totally incongruous to what was happening around them, I let them have it. If one went off having epiphanies about their relationship too soon, I kept it (I can move it later). If Mallory and Jake wanted to play kissy face with a hit man on their trail…you get the idea.

I started out the month with the notion that I wanted to laugh and gasp and nearly cry when I read this story, even if it was so awful it never saw the light of day again, and I ended up with a story I think is really special.

The next time I write, I’ll post an excerpt for you guys to read!

XOXO,

Erica

On (Not) Wimping Out

The past three days have been hard writing days for yours truly. I didn’t like what I wrote for Friday’s words, I wrote less than a thousand words at 10pm last night (meaning I wasted all of my morning writing hours–all four of them!), and this morning, I’m struggling again to get words on the page. With a manuscript that stands at a little more than 44,500 words, I am losing my momentum on it. The doubts are beginning to creep in: is the suspense element strong enough? Is the romance element strong enough? I haven’t gotten these characters on the same page in too many pages. When is she going to tell him she loves him? Is he going to tell her he loves her first? How are the conflicts going to be realistically resolved so they can be together (I resolved one conflict last night. Whew! Only one or two more to go)? How is this all going to end?

Other than these doubts, I’ve been dealing with minor characters trying to take over the story, awkward attempts at sensual scenes, and the ever looming realization that if I target Harlequin romantic suspense, I still have 20,000 words beyond NaNoWriMo to account for. Gah! No wonder I’m plastered to the ceiling! So. Much. Pressure!

Then I received a wonderful piece of advice from Sarah M. Anderson’s online workshop on revision (among a million other great pieces of advice in the forum). She reminded all of us that the holidays is not the time to send in a manuscript, as many editors are in and out of town, and requested manuscripts and establish author manuscripts tend to get priority. She told unpublished and unrequested authors to hold off until the new year, to use the next month to polish and revise. I had planned to do this initially, but I was fighting the impulsive side I had that wanted to hit send on this manuscript on December 5th and get the waiting started already. Hearing her words, in effect, gave me back a few weeks to get the story like I wanted.

I’m going to finish NaNoWriMo, and have all the major scenes, plot points, and resolutions/endings in the manuscript. I will continue on until the close of business November 30th, even if I have hit 50,000. But after that, I’m setting it aside until Monday December 10th. I am just going to get the things I still need to get on paper on the page, then I’ll go back and extend scenes that need to be elaborated on, fix word choices, find grammatical areas, deep clean each chapter…whatever editing tricks and tools float my boat. Then I’ll add in my chapter headings and make sure it’s properly formatted. Finally, I’ll develop my query letter and synopsis. Beginning December 10th, not now. Right now, all I need to do is get the words on the page in a fun way that keeps me motivated for at least 5,000 more words.

I’ve always had a problem ending things, of letting them be done so I can move on to the next step. I’m not a finisher. The problem is usually that fear chokes me. I am determined not to let fear choke me so close to my goal. It doesn’t have to be perfect; I have an entire month to sit with it and perfect it. Right now, it just has to get done.

Send me prayers and encouragement for better writing days and to finish NaNoWriMo strong and still proud of what I’ve accomplished.

How are you holding up this month?

XOXO

Erica

The Power of a Good Routine

One of the things that I am learning, both through NaNoWriMo and joining in chats on forums and boards for writers is that for me, consistency is a key element to my process, but not the most important. I need to make time to write, yes, but it doesn’t have to be a certain time and place. I find that the words flow best for me in a rather odd place at a time I’ve never tried before last month. I don’t write at my desk or on my futon; rather, I sit on the floor, propped against my dresser with three pillows at my back, legs stretched out in front of me. No, seriously, that is how I’m writing this book, lounging on the floor in my bedroom. Still, I have moments of clarity on particularly sticky parts on my lunch break, in the car,  while working at the day job—everywhere. As long as I have blocked off some time to write and have either my computer or a pen and paper, I can get at least a few hundred words in.

At this very moment, I am just over 41k into Delivering Justice. I’m still trying to find the best line to target. It’s a romantic suspense story. It is a little too racy for Love Inspired suspense (and no mention of faith), and I don’t know if I can make it long enough for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. I think there’s a little too much subplot and secondary characters for Intrigue. What’s a girl to do? Stop thinking about where it fits and finish my first draft, of course!

I am making myself take this one step at a time and have fun with the characters and the story. I think that’s the most important thing that I can do for the story at this point. I do read everything I write in the afternoon, and I do a little fact checking here and there if I need to. I am aware that I am not strictly adhering to the rules of NaNoWriMo anymore than I’m adhering to what I usually do to write a story, and I think this break from the norm for me is really helping me to get close to a finished first draft.

Once I’m done with this first draft, I’m AM going to adhere to a good piece of advice and focus my attention elsewhere. I want to get back to tweaking Pleasure’s Payne, and try to excavate my class reunion story, but I am going to just take a week to bask in being finished with Delivering Justice (and celebrating my anniversary  with the boyfriend on December 5th!). I’ll catch up on reviews for Harlequin Junkie, reading all the best upcoming books before I give DJ a good once over and send it out. Then I’ll get into the next project. I’ll try and forget I sent it in and put a calendar date out there for March to remind myself to follow up if I haven’t heard anything, all the while writing better and better books.

How’s NaNoWriMo going for you all? Is anyone else excited about the story they’re creating this month?  Would anyone be interested in seeing a snippet of Delivering Justice?

#NaNoWriMo, Outlines, & How I Learned to Stop Fighting Plotting

We are almost halfway through National Novel Writing Month, and I am more than halfway through to the 50k word count goal. It’s amazing the difference a few weeks can make! This is my third attempt at NaNoWriMo, and the first time I’ve had 30k words done on a fiction project (I have just over 40k in the books on my Marriage Kit book). I  couldn’t be more excited with all of the progress that I’ve made on this story, and I feel that it’s a really strong one. I wanted to share some of what I’m finding so different about writing this time around, and why I feel this story may be “the One”–my first submitted full length romance!

First of all, I started thinking about NaNoWriMo early this year. I wrote down the incident that spawned the idea for the story on October 18th. From October 18th until October 31st, I teased the idea, creating a basic plot outline for the first time ever. I started with the main characters names, occupations, how they met, what changes, the external problems, the internal problems, and what changes again. I then moved into the climax and the happily ever after. I made a separate list based on this loose plotting that included all of the things that had to happen to keep the plot moving in the right direction, which has allowed for me to keep an element of surprise in the writing that keeps me returning to the page. I even checked the plot over for possible plot holes and had a list of explanations that dug me out of them. I made a list of who didn’t know what and when/if they would figure it out. I developed all of the supporting characters and tossed around a few first line ideas. Most importantly, I read several articles on where to start the story, how to set the scene, what Harlequin is and is not looking for, and advice from editors. I printed off a copy of the guidelines for the line I’m targeting, and read interviews with the editors of that line to get a better feel of what works with the line. In other words, I did my research.

Another thing that’s different about this year is that I have a reader. A coworker read my So You Think You Can Write entry and really enjoyed it. We got busted for talking too much just before the first, so instead of telling her about what I was working on, I decided to drop off what I had written to her on the first to see what she thought. She is a Norah Roberts superfan, so I knew she loved the genre and would be a good first reader, but more than that, dropping off the pages each day means I have to write the words and meet my word count each day. It’s the best accountability that I could have, and seeing her face light up each day I drop off the next batch of befuddling first draft pages makes me feel like a real writer with a devoted following.

I have never been able to quiet my inner editor, so I developed a compromise for NaNoWriMo that’s been working really well for me: I can fix typos, exchange words, and add words for clarity, but I can’t take words out until after NaNoWriMo is over. I look over a printed copy of what I’ve written each day  and correct anything that needs correcting. I fix any errors in my NaNo document before continuing on the next day. This way, my inner editor is satisfied I’ll have a clean copy when I’m done without me having to compromise the word count.

Another thing that has really helped me is getting up each morning at 5 am to write. I come to the same place to write as well. This consistency has helped me to keep the words flowing. I love the progress that I’ve made on this project, and I’m hopeful it will be my first completed not quite first draft of a fiction project.

So, about the story. It’s a romantic suspense story about what happens when an interior designer (Mallory Taylor) is given the wrong delivery by the hot delivery driver for Vito’s Ristorante (Jake Ballenger). Instead of getting her usual order of baked ziti with a side of meatballs, she’s delivered something a lot less edible and a whole lot more alarming. Jake had just made his last delivery on his last day at Vito’s, but he’s willing to return to the gorgeous interior designer’s office to get one last look at her curves before moving on. Instead of an eyeful, he ends up with a bullet in his shoulder. The two manage to escape with their lives, and set out to figure out what they’ve become caught up in. But when the bullets stop flying, will the love that’s developing between them be left standing?

I love Jake and Mallory. Mallory has no brain mouth filter, and Jake’s tough exterior hides a warm guy who’d lay down his life for the woman he loved. I have managed to incorporate both Mallory and Jake’s POVs into the story, as well as populating the with fun supporting characters and a few plot twists to keep things interesting. I’m hoping that I’ll be read to sub this story, tentatively titled Delivering Justice, by the beginning of next year, if not before. I will take a break from it for at least a week in December to plot the next couple of ideas I have for possible sequels. In other words, I’m really excited about this story, and I can’t wait to share a snippet with you guys…

Tomorrow. 😀

XOXO

Erica

So You Think You Can Write?…I Did!

You guys, sorry for the LONG hiatus, but I’ve been busying doing a few writer things I think you should know about. First, I’ve been writing reviews over at HarlequinJunkie.com. I have loved Harlequin romance novels since I was a teenager, and I jumped at the chance to review their books on a site. I get at least nine books a month to review, which means my plate is always full of exciting new books to read and review. You can find my reviews by looking for reviews with a tag of “Erica.” My latest review is of A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence. I will be establishing a page where I will provide links to my reviews, etc.

Secondly, I did something slightly spur of the moment and submitted my 2011 Camp NaNoWriMo romance to Harlequin Mills Boon’s So You Think You Can Write Competition. There are over six hundred entries, and only 50 full manuscripts will be requested, so I don’t know how far I will get, especially since I didn’t let myself think too much before I wrote the pitch and hit submit on the last possible day, but I really believe in this story. If it doesn’t win and I don’t hear anything back from editors by the time they have followed up after the contest, I will publish it here. If you want to read the pitch and first 5000 words (and leave me some comments!), you can read it here. Stay and check out some other first chapters; I’ve read a few really good ones myself.

Lastly, I have been trying to finish my final edit for the book before I pass it to an editor for the final FINAL edit. It’s hard letting go, but I can see that the parts I’ve finished have been polished as much as they can be before I cross the line into over editing. I am hoping to have it turned over in another week or two.

Between all of this and increased work responsibilities, I’ve been neglecting my blogs, but I wanted to let you all know what’s going on with me and pledge to be a much better blogger. I will return at least once a week for Writer Wednesdays, to share progress, ponder writer issues, and just hear all about what’s going on with all of you. Promise.

XOXO

Erica

No NaNo…and I’m Okay with That

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, and I’m OK with that. I don’t want you to take that to mean I’m not writing; I am. It’s just that I’m choosing to focus on finishing my marriage kit book instead of heading headlong into the fiction writing frenzy of NaNoWriMo. I’ve committed myself fully to focusing on this one project and actually finishing a manuscript this year as I’ve planned.

Thanks to a new position at work sparking new life in me and conversations and news articles that have kept my interest in this project high, I have a lot written down in various places. Now I’m typing it all up, as well as expanding on ideas and trying to put it in some sort of other. I feel as if I have confirmation I’m working on the right book at the right time.

So I have decided to be fully committed to one project at a time, at least until I finish this one. I haven’t been on the blogs as much and I haven’t been working on other projects. I’m going to give something my all, for once. And so far, it seems to be the best road for me to have taken.

To NaNo or Not to NaNo…

This is the question I keep asking myself this year. The first year I attempted it, I had no internet. Last year, I was preparing to move and had a lot going on personally that prevented me from giving it my best effort. This year, writing might get in the way of…well, writing.

I’m working on the marriage kit project. I’ve actually got the beginnings of a good chapter written and a few others outlined, as interviews and such have been few and far between. I am also transcribing a backlog of interviews onto the computer and selecting quotes, scripture references, and etc. I’m concentrating solely on this project right now, but I’m starting to grow a bit bored with just one thing. I’m starting to wonder if switching gears to fiction, to NaNoWriMo for a month, might be in order.

I don’t know what I’m going to do just yet. Are you going to do NaNoWriMo? What are your reasons? How do you know when it’s time to switch gears and when you just need to buckle down & gut it out?

Needing Help in a Hurry

Tomorrow is the official start to Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve already been on to the website, filled out my author information. I’ve got my pens and paper ready, and I’m ready to resuscitate a very rusty writing practice. The thing is, I got to that pesky novel information page and realized I still don’t know what I’m writing about.

Since the spirit of NaNoWriMo is to start and finish a novel in the allotted month, I have to start from scratch writing wise. Thanks to my trip home, there are quite a few pieces that I have that I can start over with and make a pretty great story from. There are a couple of choices for this, as I outlined in The Girl Who Couldn’t Commit.

Here are my choices. Let me know what you think I should work on. Keep in mind, now, that since I’d have to start over, some of the ones I wanted to work on, I can’t (A Blues for Zora, the one on Openfiction.com, Class Reunion, the Southern Gothic Novel)

  1. The story I told you about in Three Sides to Every Story. It’s about a woman who has recently lost a parent. In her grief, she becomes a mean, bitter recluse. She meets and befriends a man who is her polar opposite–daring, extroverted, friendly. This is the story of their friendship. At this point, it’s not a love story, but who knows?
  2. The story with the “It’s Really Not What it Looks Like” twist. Amanda is sick and needs a home health aid. Her brother catches the home health aid in a situation that looks really bad and forms a bad opinion about her, despite his obvious attraction to her. Can she prove her innocence and keep her job? It’s very harlequinesque, as you can see.
  3. That murder story I was telling you about. Maria Gonzales is a mystery writer suffering from severe writer’s block under deadline. She just can’t seem to get a good grip on this female familicidal killer. Luckily, her boyfriend Tony works at a maximum security women’s prison that houses a notorious female convicted of familicide. Maria overcomes her writer’s block and pens a bestseller. Everything is going well…until the murderess escapes.
  4.  Something absolutely new that I’ve been playing around with. I’m not sharing it yet. That is all. Well not really. I’ll just say it’s more literary than the others.

Cast your votes now. I’ll let you know what I decided to go with tomorrow!

Random Thoughts Friday

  • NaNoWriMo is having an official summertime NaNoWriMo called Camp NaNoWriMo. Is anyone thinking of doing this? I personally would have liked a bit more notice, so I could begin thinking of what I would have wanted to do, but I just may try it. It might necessitate becoming friends with my local library for a few hours a day, but who knows what it could yield?
  • I have some exciting posts I’m working on…well, exciting to me. One is the Ten Commandments of Editing (feels a little sacreligious to call it “the Ten Commandments”, but there are ten of them, and I enjoy excuses to use “thee” and “thou”). Another is how editing a book can improve your relationship. I have a massive amount of link love to distribute as well.
  • I found some fiction that I wrote when I was a senior in high school on a fiction website. Some of it is really good and I really want to continue it. One piece in particular sounds like the beginning of a pretty good Harlequin. I was actually sitting there going, “what happens next?” I don’t remember, although I know that there are at least three more chapters written stored away in Michigan. It makes me even more excited to go home.
  • I thought I had more to talk about, but I actually have more things to write, as in writing that may one day be published. That’s a good thing. I’ll try to post what I can this weekend from the promised posts and pieces for the Untitled page. Thanks for reading!

How are you spending your weekend? Any exciting news to share?